I thought I’d start this post with an understatement: It’s been a strange week in Alberta politics. The Wildrose party has, in the last year, given the PC government a glimpse of its own mortality. Now, it is the WRP that is in critical condition, and many observers give it less than a year or two to live.
Like most Albertans, I find this turn of events unexpected and puzzling. And disappointing. As I’ve said before, I like right wing parties so much, I want there to be two of them. Or three. A divided right benefits the NDP certainly. But far more than that, the rise of the Wildrose created the conditions for a true multi-party democracy in Alberta, something we haven’t enjoyed since Social Credit came to power in 1935. Now the road will be harder.
This is not to say that the NDP will not contend against the PCs. We will, and we will surprise Albertans with our strength and determination. There are hundreds of thousands of Albertans who voted for the PCs in the last election because they were afraid of the Wildrose and/or because of Alison Redford’s progressive promises. Already disappointed in the broken promises of the PCs, they now see them absorbing the very party they were voting PC to stop. These voters are angry and disillusioned. And they are looking for a new home.
Alberta’s NDP is organizationally and financially in the best position it’s been in since the early nineties, far ahead of the Liberal and Alberta parties. And we intend to make use of our growing capacity to reach out to those progressive voters who were so betrayed by Alison Redford and Jim Prentice.
But how do we make sense of what’s happened to the Wildrose Party? I can’t. Who knew they were so fragile? The loss of a couple of by-elections is something that should have been merely a wake up call, a chance to correct deficiencies before the general election, expected a year and a half later. Instead there has been panic and confusion on an epic scale, with events cascading out of control.
The crossing of seven MLAs to the PCs, including the Leader of the Official Opposition is unprecedented. That it is apparently being done against the will of the Party is a huge betrayal. It is a setback for the opposition as a whole, because the WRP was effective in its role. So how did we get to this point?
It seems that negotiations between the 2 parties have been going on for a week or so. There is an agreement of sorts, leaked to Rick Bell of the Calgary Sun. http://www.scribd.com/doc/250299264/Wildrose-reunification
We are told by unnamed sources, presumably from among the WRP defectors, that this is a victory for the Wildrose since Prentice has agreed to adopt a range of Wildrose policies and to support the defectors to win PC nominations for the next election. If Prentice has actually agreed to everything that’s in the document, he has made it clear that his caucus will have the final say. They meet tomorrow.
But who is the agreement actually between? Is between the PC party and the WR party? The PC caucus and the WR caucus? Or between Prentice and the defecting MLAs? It provides that Prentice and Smith will write to the Wildrose executive and membership asking that the WR membership be asked to vote on the “reunion” proposal in the spring. So that part at least, is between the parties.
But what if the Wildrose party executive not only says no, but hell no, as they surely will? Or if the WR membership was to vote it down, as they surely would, at the spring convention? What then? Do they still have a deal?
Will Prentice be bound to accept Wildrose policies in that event? And what about the PC membership? They will undoubtedly want a say in the party’s policies, regardless of any agreement.
And what about the requirement for Prentice to endorse defecting Wildrose MLAs for the PC nomination in their constituencies? Will that still be a valid contract? And even if it is, there are no guarantees under this agreement. Given the apparent hostility to this deal from the Wildrose grass roots, WRP defectors will have to depend on the PC faithful to win their nomination. A wink and a nudge, the Premier does his formal duty, and the Tory membership disposes of the Wildrose interloper at the nomination meeting. It’s the all-to-common fate of the floor crosser, and usually the end of their career.
Those Wildrose MLAs thinking about betraying their party would do well to watch The Godfather II. And consider the fate of Fredo.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I’ve watched enough Godfather movies to know how this turns out.